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Category Archives: Covert Action

Is the “Covert Action” in Syria Actually a Covert Action?

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Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 3:26 PM

I have noted how openly the United States has been leaking information about its covert action to support moderate Syrian rebels – from its inception through the supposed recent ramp-up.  I notice via a post by Marcy Wheeler that the ostensible covert action was discussed openly and explicitly by senior Executive branch officials – the . . .
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Two Notes on Secrecy v. Transparency in the National Security World

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Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Two pieces in the news worth noting on the issue of secrecy v. transparency in the U.S. intelligence world.  First, The Guardian reports that former DRNSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden said in London: “It’s clear to me now that in liberal democracies the security services don’t get to do what they do without broad public understanding . . .
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The Long, Classified War

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 9:21 AM

A recent cluster of stories – on al Qaeda’s growth, dispersion, and resilience, on the USG’s increased use of surveillance drones outside of “hot war zones,” on the USG possibly ramping up secret war in Somalia, and on the covert action to arm certain Syrian rebels – got me wondering about the debate in May on the proper scope of the AUMF.  . . .
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Tools and Tradeoffs: Confronting U.S. Citizen Terrorist Suspects Abroad

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Today, the Brookings Institution released a lengthy paper my colleague Daniel Byman and I have been working on for some time, entitled “Tools and Tradeoffs: Confronting U.S. Citizen Terrorist Suspects Abroad.” The Brookings release is available here. The full report is available here.  We will release audio of the launch event, which was hosted by our colleague . . .
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The Remarkably Open Syrian Covert Action

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 12:30 PM

There are at least three noteworthy elements in the WP’s story this morning about intelligence committee “approval” of “CIA weapons shipments to opposition fighters in Syria.” First is the fact that the intelligence committees “voted on the administration’s plan” last week.  An intelligence committee vote is not typically a prerequisite to a covert action.  Under the covert . . .
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Blaming (or Crediting) the Lawyers for Our Syria Policy

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Monday, July 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

This morning both the WSJ (behind paywall) and NYT have stories on how law and lawyers have influenced the changing USG posture on intervening in Syria.  The gist of the WSJ story is that administration lawyers, apparently relying on the ICJ Nicaragua Case, pushed back against policy makers who called for “more assertive U.S. action . . .
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Important New Oversight Legislation for Military Kill/Capture Outside Afghanistan

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Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:24 AM

Big news out of the House Armed Services Committee: Representative Mac Thornberry (a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, I proudly note) is going to introduce a bill enhancing oversight of kill/capture operations that may be conducted by the armed forces outside of Afghanistan.  [UPDATE: Full disclosure: I gave comments on an early . . .
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Bradley & Goldsmith Supplement for Foreign Relations Law

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Curtis Bradley and I have a casebook on foreign relations law that includes a heavy dose of national security law (including chapters on covert action and targeted killing) that might be of interest to Lawfare readers.  Here is a TOC for the book.  And here, hot off the press, is our latest Supplement.  It includes excerpts of the Supreme Court’s . . .
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Mali, the Way of the Knife, and Working “By, With, and Through” Others

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 7:04 PM

While we are on the subject of Mark Mazzetti’s The Way of the Knife, and for that matter while we are speaking of Mali, check out this Washington Post report on U.S. boots being on the ground in Mali after all. It was already clear, of course, that Mali nicely illustrated both a key concern . . .
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“Carrying Arms Openly,” Drones, and Covert Action

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 12:31 AM

Jens David Ohlin (Cornell) has an interesting post up at LieberCode in which he discusses a range of LOAC issues raised by CIA involvement in drone strikes.  Jens raises the question whether CIA personnel involved in drone strikes can qualify for combat immunity.  Building from the premise that this question turns on compliance with the . . .
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Thoughts on Possible End to CIA Targeted Killing

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:53 PM

As Jack mentioned, Dan Klaidman of the Daily Beast reported today that “the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA’s lethal targeting program to the Defense Department.” Over at ForeignPolicy.com, I just published a brief essay on this matter.  In short: Many critics of the government’s targeted killing . . .
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D.C. Circuit Rejects Glomar Response in ACLU/CIA Drone FOIA Suit

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Friday, March 15, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Pretty big decision by the D.C. Circuit this morning, reversing the district court’s dismissal of the ACLU’s drone-related FOIA suit against the CIA on the ground that the Agency’s “Glomar response” was not justified. (Jack previewed and Wells recapped the oral argument back in September.) As Chief Judge Garland wrote for the court, Given [the various] . . .
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Poland to Drop CIA Black Site Prosecution?

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Monday, February 25, 2013 at 4:43 PM

I have posted previously about a criminal investigation in Poland targeting the former head of Poland’s intelligence service, based on his alleged cooperation in establishing a CIA black site on Polish territory. It appears now that charges will be dropped.

Observations About Targeting and Congressional Intelligence Oversight

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Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 5:06 PM

The recent controversy about the Justice Department White Paper and the closely related Senate confirmation hearings for CIA director-nominee John Brennan have raised the profile of congressional intelligence oversight.  A brief summary of some of these issues is this Politico article, and for those interested in a great general analysis of intelligence oversight and its . . .
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Other Lawfare Matters in the State of the Union

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:03 PM

In the President’s State of the Union Address, President Obama spent a fair amount of time on foreign policy and Lawfare-related matters. In addition to announcing his cybersecurity executive order, he discussed draw-down plans for Afghanistan, how to deal with the threat of Al Qaeda in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, his plan to increase . . .
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Why a “Drone Court” Won’t Work–But (Nominal) Damages Might…

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Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 5:12 PM

There’s been a fair amount of buzz over the past few days centered around the idea of a statutory “drone court”–a tribunal modeled after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that would (presumably) provide at least some modicum of due process before the government engages in targeted killing operations, but that, like the FISC, would . . .
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Brennan Confirmation Hearing Video

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Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Speaking of the John Brennan confirmation hearing, here’s the video, courtesy of CSPAN:  

Would a Director Brennan and a Secretary Hagel Partner to Shift CIA Lethal Operations to DOD?

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Monday, January 7, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Back in October, I wrote about the claim in this Washington Post story that John Brennan supports shifting the CIA’s operations involving the use of lethal force over to the military.  Now that he is about to be nominated as CIA Director, it is time to start paying closer attention to this possibility.  Hopefully the question will receive a . . .
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National Security Law in the News: A Guide for Journalists, Scholars and Policymakers

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Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:48 PM

In the category of shameless self-promotion, I am quite pleased to announce the publication of National Security Law in the News: A Guide for Journalists, Scholars, and Policymakers. The book is a joint publication of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security and the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University.  I edited the . . .
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Counterterrorism Legal Policy in Obama’s Second Term

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Friday, November 9, 2012 at 8:31 AM

One important consequence of President Obama’s re-election will be the further entrenchment, and legitimation, of the basic counterterrorism policies that Obama continued, with tweaks, from the late Bush administration.  We will have four more years of a Democratic president presiding over military detention without trial, military commission trials (at least for the 9/11 conspirators, if . . .
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